My fellow volunteers have been much better about posting than I have, but they’ve done a pretty good job and describing what we’ve done here so far. It is like nothing I have ever been apart of before and though it’s not all mangoes and tea (‘peaches and cream’ Cameroon-style), this is honestly amazing.
I shall start by saying, yes, believe it or not I am doing physical labor on a farm, and yes, I am not messing it up. In fact when we have to marcot trees, I love climbing up to the higher branches. We do many other things than marcotting as well that are not quite as exciting (detailed in previous posts) though at the end of the day it feels good to have worked so hard no matter what. When we first got here our guide said he believes it is good to be tired and hungry, and I must say I agree.
I would like to describe to you more the scenery and landscape we’re surrounded by but I really feel there is no way to do it justice. We’re in mountainous terrain but it’s covered by lush green plants that look like they’d grow in the rain forest, and almost just as thick. Njinikom center and where we live is up at the top of one of the mountains so anytime you go anywhere you are either trekking up a hill or down it and you can see beautiful views any way you turn. It rains almost everyday here in the afternoon but that keeps it nice and cool for the most part. In fact sometimes at night it can get very cold – my guidebook also warns against hypothermia – but that may be partially because of cold showers. The way to handle that is something I like to call the Hokey-Pokey method: one body part at a time with a lot of dancing involved.
Despite everything being very different you get into the swing of things quickly. For example, the erratic driving of taxis is no longer alarming (going into oncoming traffic is no big deal here) and your body is no longer uncomfortable with fitting 8 people into a car that is smaller than most any you would see back home. Additionally, you generally become okay with seeing bugs around. Aside from perhaps the occasional tarantula (good morning to you too! hope you don’t mind if I duct taped over all the holes in the walls because you crawled into one!), normally you just go, ‘oh hey,’ and continue on.
Something that was a little harder to adjust to were the gender roles they hold here. Though they recognize that you are a foreigner and therefore probably hold different ideas than themselves, they still evaluate you the same way and in order to work well with the community it’s a good idea to respect their way of doing things. Another thing I don’t think I’ll ever get too comfortable with are all the police and military checkpoints. I’ve gotten better at handling them but nonetheless it’s not too pleasant to recognize that you are in the hands of someone who is apart of the corrupt system of government here.
Anyways, I am still having a great time here. We’ve gotten very creative at learning how to entertain ourselves at night as the power is often out and we must be back in the house before dark. On the weekends when we’re not working we also often go to sights around the Boyo Division. This last Saturday we went to the Ndawara Tea Estate way up in the mountains and it was amazing. It was strange how quickly the terrain changed in just an hour. I commented to Ben about how I imagined this is what Italy looked like and he confirmed! except said it also looked cleaner. Basically it was beautiful. The place smelled wonderful and relaxing and we learned later that that’s the tea we drink every morning. I plan on bringing a tin back. This was also the first time we got to try the motorcycles that are everywhere in Cameroon. Generally when we’re traveling we do so as a group so we take taxis but since the road was so steep we had to take the motorcycles. I for one was very excited. It was incredibly fun though somewhat painful as it takes a surprising amount of muscles to hold on.
In the past week I’ve also been to Bamenda twice, and I enjoyed that. The cities are also exciting though somewhat hectic here. I went once on Saturday with Christina and again on Monday to sort through some business however the second time it was just me and our volunteer coordinator so we were able to walk all through the market sector and actually get to talk to more people and what it was like there. Additionally we drove through Up-Station where a lot of governmental buildings are (you can’t take pictures because they are very strict about that here) and saw the whole view of Bamenda. It was one of the experiences you hope to have when traveling around in a foreign country.
I think I’ve written enough for now though there’s always more to add. If you want any more information on a particular aspect write it in the comments and I would love to talk more about it! Until next time, I wish you the best and hope you may feel something like this Jungle Fever. Ahsha.